UPDATE: You can now buy the Nebula 4000 Lite from an American company
I don’t want to spread misinformation, I am in over my head on this review, I really have no idea what I talking about since I am so new to 3-axis brush-less gimbals.
Why this over a Glidecam, simple I suck at the Glidecam. Some might like the Glidecam for it’s organic feel, I don’t care what feel it gives, I just want a steady level shot. I’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time! I think this small gimbal is up there with the GH4 and a7S as important items of 2014. And just the pairing of these small mirrorless camera and this small gimbal it important in itself!
No competition that I know for this type of 3-axis pistol grip gimbal, Filmpower owns this market until others like Freefly and DJI wake up and see the potential market for this. Big Balance has something but I don’t think it has ever shipped and is only 2-axis. Update: viewer Dennis Packard told me about this The J69 Gimbal which seems to use larger motors and is slightly lighter pistol grip gimbal like the Nebula (I know very little about it). Also another one is from Team Rebel Design Handheld Pro that looks very promising, I don’t know who sells it.
Things I Like
- Filmed my girls sledding, what a blast chasing them down this hill with this thing! Never had smooth footage like this before. Feels great to move the camera. Great for a corporate video I have coming up.
- So small to travel with! it only weights 800g. DJI Ronin weights 4,200g. Or it weights a lot less than my 2,100g monopod.
- So light, I can hold it for as long as my Sony a7S battery will last me (26 minutes at -2°F). Lighter is always better, I will use it more because I can hold it longer and get more shots, instead of resting because my back is killing me.
- So small you can hang it off to your side with an Black Rapid R strap. No shop owners asked what I was doing, try that with a DJI Ronin or a Movi!
- The price is right, about $700. Some might say that is too much, considering the amount of tooling required for the extrude metal pieces, I think it is a bargain.
- Sound so good for walking shots because it is so quiet!
- I have so much good and usable footage I don’t know what to do with it all
- My brother-in-law who runs a machine shop looked at it and said they did a nice job on it
- Handle gets cold (metal), need gloves.
- Good it’s light but metal grip can be sharp
- Small screw fell off of the gyro sensor – vibrations.
- Can remove can battery? Sort of, you can always solder a quick connect for the battery so you can switch another one in quickly.
- Battery replaceable? Sort of.
- 1:20 to charge from died. You can add alarm below 9 volts and turn of motors as Ken did in the setup.
- You can’t see it the footage is smooth by playing it back on the camera, or viewing it on a mobile phone you have to view it at the native resolution to see if you got smooth footage. You have to run a lot of tests, just by looking down at the tip of the lens to see if it is moving around while filming will also not do it for you.
- Same settings work diff on each because a cable might be inverted during building.
- In the kitchen Estes Park he really need to go from one subject and nowhere to go to the second subject. Move with a purpose.
- I got lot of the moves wrong. But I got a lot of stuff that I really liked that I either did by accident or happen quite nicely
- Website issues. Phone number is 123?
- Take a while to understand which lenses to use.
- 0 degrees F worked great
- Use up cards faster.
- I need to figure out what is “Motion cadence” for panning shots and how to reduce the jitter, perhaps a higher frame rate or a slower shutter angle.
- I understand from one of my viewers that the yaw motor has 24 poles and not 14 like the way the unit comes from the factory. He said he verified it with Filmpower.
Why I am Not Buying One Just Yet (or things I didn’t like)
- I am so close to buying this! I would probably buy it right now if I had not ever tried another one before.
- Range of motion is limited: One problem is pointing it down at 45 deg angle and then the handle is not straight, it then because hard to move the camera without hitting the camera body. This might be my lack of experience.
- Erik Naso had issues with his first unit (I sent him mine), also another person on Twitter said he was having fatal issues with it as well.
- Can’t seem to inverted it all the time, sometimes it works, Jason Wingrove got it to work (inverted pan / yaw motor). Talked with filmpower via Skype but it was really hard to understand him because he was in a moving car.
One or two minute warm up on my before roll is level. Issue for run and gun, on your side and bring up to shoot. Others not having this issue. (I think this issue is solved when using the a7s and Ken Anaso settings.)
- Not tool-less. Not going to be making a sled adjustment in field.
- Do I wait for version Mark II to come out that solves these issues? Do I wait for other manufacturers to wake up and see the potential market for small gimbals? Should I try “Emm’s 3-axis minigimbal“? Buy something between now and NAB is a scary thought, because so many new items might come out in April.
- Software is a little like rock science. You change one setting and it effects others in some calculus way, that is hard to get a feel for. I need a company to make really good instructions on how to balance and fine tune the software.
- Case is really hard to close.
- Check out Ken Asano site where he upgrades his boards to 32bit from 8bit, makes some cool battery modifications and watch him run with the thing, really smooth! Note you will have to hit translate button in Chrome to read in English. Ken said it was easy to update to 32 to bit and said in the translation, “you will like this”. If it was that easy for him, I am sure future models of the Nebula will include a 32bit board. If you watch Ken’s videos he has used everything from Movi to Ronin, just check out Ken’s YouTube channel.
- Yes something better will come along in this small form factor which works well for my shooting style, but if it does come NAB then I will buy one because I will be missing out on some great shots if I do not. Does that sound stupid, should I buy one now because I am thinking about all the great shots I will be missing between now and NAB.
a7S & GH4 Wide Angle Lenses – Notes for myself
Lenses I tried with the Nebula:
- Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm f/2.0 Lens GH4: expensive but sharp with nice contrast, but I didn’t like it for the Nebula because I would rather have a zoom that I can quickly re-balance then carrying another primes with me.
- Panasonic – LUMIX G 14mm f/2.5 ASPH II GH4: this lens is a little too soft at f2.8, but that doesn’t matter for me because if I am flying it I would want to shoot at f5.6 or higher, but again it is not a zoom and does not give me the options I want for my shooting style
- Olympus – M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 Lens GH4: I really like this lens on the Nebula, it is somewhat inexpensive when compared to other wide angle lenses, I like it because I can zoom and re-balance fast. I have not run a ton of tests on it, but it is sharp wide open and doesn’t appear to have a lot of distortion. However one m43 wide zoom that you might want to wait for is the new Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO Lens which should be amazing and expensive.
- Voigtlander Color-Skopar 20mm f/3.5 SL II N Aspherical Lens for Canon EF a7S: many others are shooting with APS-C lenses in crop mode, I thought I would try this 20mm which can be used in normal mode. I would NOT recommend this lens because it is very soft at f3.5 and even soft at f8 in the corners, I have noticed a lot vignetting. My Tokina 16-28mm which is a zoom blows the doors off this prime, but the Tokina is too heavy to put on the Nebula.
I don’t want to shoot wide all the time, I want to have less distortion and zoom in a bit for a different feel but I don’t want to change lenses. The Panasonic 12mm prime is sharp and nice contrast but very limiting in run and gun. The 9-18mm gives me more options, not fast glass so indoor work might not be possible in low light. The 14mm prime is too soft at f2.8.
The Gh4 with 12/35mm lens is only slightly heavier than the a7s with the 20mm and adapter.
Panasonic 7-14mm (16.1 – 32.2,) vs Olympus 9-18mm (20.7 – 41.4)
- Both f4 at widest
Both don’t have IS
Both soft at f22
Olympus you can zoom without re-balancing.
Olympus can take ND filter
Olympus is cheaper
Olympus is lighter and smaller
Olympus does not have purple flaring issue that Panasonic has.
Olympus GH4 combo is lighter than a7s with 20mm
300g vs 155g
Weather resistance? Panasonic not.
Olympus focus might be slower, No depth of defocus, I did not test.
PID Terms (mostly notes to myself for next time):
- PID = Proportional-Integral-Derivative
- P = power of disturbance response reacts to external disturbance (touch that motor and see how loose it is)
- I = speed responsiveness getting back to neutral balanced condition. .01 is slow, .15 fast return, don’t go above .2 on the yaw is gets a lot of vibrations.
- D = “dampening” The “D” value reduces the reaction speed. This value helps to remove low-frequency oscillations.
- Deadband degree = allows you to move the gimbal a little bit without it reacting.
- Num Poles = number of poles in your motor, usually 14
- RC Settings = this is if you have a joy stick (we don’t have one)
- Power = how strong you want the motors to be. ” maximum voltage supplied to the motors (0 – 255, where 255 means full battery voltage). ” Don’t let the motors get hot, it will damage the magnets.
- Gyro_X Red = roll
- Gyro_Y Orange = Pitch/Tilt
- Gyro_Z Lime = Yaw
- PWM Frequency = low is more efficient with power, use high
When Settings are too High (What to look out for)
- Want to use or start with as low power as possible so you can raise pid values.
- If you go too high on P values you will get freq vibrations. “If oscillations occur, raise the “D” parameter by 1 or 2 units, and then try to raise the “P” value again.”
- If you go too high on D values you will get high freq vibrations.
- If I value too high it will overshoot the target
Calibration Setup – Notes from a Helpful Tutorial
The follow setup is from a brushless gimbal setup guide by Creyc. His video taught me a lot so I wanted to take notes while watching it, the next gimbal I test I will not have to watch the entire 36 minute video. After I followed this video I was able to get better results out of the Nebula.
This guide requires the SimpleBGC software that I have demo’ed in my other videos.
- Connect a USB cord from the gimbal to your computer and start the SimpleBGC software and connect.
- Turn off the motors
- Zero out all PID settings, check “skip gyro cal” box”
- Set all power levels, the yaw and roll will require more power usually Roll=50, Pitch 85, Yaw=100. The pitch motor has the least amount of mass attached to it, so lowest power required. The roll motor has the mass of the camera and the pitch motor so has a little more momentum which requires more power. The yaw has the entire gimbal so it needs the most power. Use the least amount of power required, this will reduce vibrations, but too little power because of large bumps while walking or wind will be seen.
- Turn motors on
- Press ‘Auto’ to find what is inverted with the wiring, and then make all poles 14 (for Nebula) because Auto is not accurate for poles.
- In advanced/motor outputs = roll:disabled, pitch:pitch out, yaw:disabled, so only pitch it working.
- The + to the right of power is what is added to the power when the gimbal ‘loses step’ or bumped this + power will be added on to the original value to bring it back to locked or center. Start with 50 power and 0 for the + column.
- Add 1 to the P value
- Holding the back of the sled rock the pitch up and down, if it drops down and stays down it “loses step”. If you are gentle and it follows with the movement, but if you turn it quick and it loses it’s place that is a sign you need a little more power, increase by 10 units. If it holds than you have the right power. He went from 50 to 65.
- Advanced: Disable pitch and Roll: roll out
- Set roll to 1,0,0 and power of 75, increased to 85 then to 90
- Advanced: turn roll to disabled and yaw to yaw out.
- Set yaw to 1,0,0 and power of 100, increase to 120
- Go back to just pitch: Advanced: disable roll pitch:pitch out, and yaw: disabled
- Power tuning is done, move on to PID tuning.
- Start with the D value first, if you start with P first you will get vibrations, so start with D, easy to start high and move down, start with 18, pick up the unit and watch for high freq vibrations, pull the unit back to it is tipping up and feel the vibrations. Bring the D value down until it stops. Finished at 9.
- Look to the lower right on the pitch circle and the number on the right is the error which is around 2.7, as you increase the P the error number drops. We want that error number to be low since that will show up in our video. If you go too high you will get vibrations.
- The I is still at 0, so no correction will happen. Set to .01 for now (slowest). If Pitch error is at a fraction of a degree. this is good.
- He felt vibrations so he decreased the D by 1 and increased the P 15 to 20. Keep those numbers active and move to roll next.
- Set Roll D 20 to start (go higher than you think),
- Real time data just select the Gyro X axis. If you see ringing with light taps it is too high. Bring down until you get one spike cycle on the real time graph, very light taps on the side of the camera.
- Now lightly tap on pitch front of lens and watch graph, adjust as needed
- Yaw – instead of tapping hold it like you are walking with it and watch the error number.
- I: .09 for Roll, .18 for pitch, .04 for yaw
Inverted Mode Instructions from FilmPower (Didn’t Work)
Invert mode in two way. First is direct turn from normal turn on, it turn front or back, but can not exceed 180°. Second is fill invert mode need set YAW motor invert mode in app. Camera in normal and grip on top then turn on.